You’ve made it. You’ve read through the entire Climate Wars series (without skipping ahead!), where you learned what climate change is, the various effects it will have on the environment, and the dangerous impacts it will have on society, on your future.
You also just finished reading about what world governments and the private sector will do to control climate change. But, that leaves out one important element: yourself. This Climate Wars series finale will give you a list of conventional and unconventional tips you can adopt to better live in harmony with the environment you share with your fellow man (or woman; or trans; or animal; or future artificial intelligence entity).
Accept that you’re part of the problem AND a part of the solution
This might sound odd, but the fact that you exist immediately puts you in the red where the environment is concerned. We all enter the world already consuming more energy and resources from the environment than we return to it. That’s why it’s important that as we grow older, we make an effort to educate ourselves about the impact we have on the environment and work to give back to it in a positive way. The fact that you’re reading this article is a good step in that direction.
Live in a city
So this might ruffle some feathers, but one of the biggest things you can do for the environment is live as close to the city core as possible. It might sound counterintuitive, but it’s far cheaper and efficient for the government to maintain infrastructure and provide public services to people who live in densely populated areas than it is to serve the same number of people spread out over sparser suburban or rural areas.
But, on a more personal level, think about it this way: a disproportionate amount of your federal, provincial/state, and municipal tax dollars is spent maintaining basic and emergency services to folks living in rural areas or the far suburbs of a city in comparison to the majority of people living in city centers. It might sound harsh, but it really isn’t fair for city dwellers to subsidize the lifestyles of those living in isolated city suburbs or distant rural areas.
In the long-term, those living outside the city core would need to pay more in taxes to make up for the excess cost they place on society (this is me advocating for density-based property taxes). Meanwhile, those communities who opt to live in more rural settings need to increasingly disconnect from the wider energy and infrastructure grid and become completely self-sufficient. Luckily, the technology behind lifting a small town off the grid is becoming far cheaper with each passing year.
Green your home
Wherever you live, reduce your energy consumption in order to make your home as green as possible. Here’s how:
If you live in a multi-story building, then you’re already ahead of the game since living in a building uses less energy than living in a house. That said, living in a building can also limit your options to further green your home, especially if you’re renting. So, if your leasing or rental contract allows it, opt to install energy efficient appliances and lighting.
That said, don’t forget that your appliances, entertainment system, and everything that plugs into a wall uses power even when not in use. You can manually unplug everything that you’re not currently using, but after a while you’ll go nuts; instead, invest in smart surge protectors that keep your appliances and TV on while in use, then automatically unplug their power when they’re not in use.
Finally, if you own a condo, look for ways to get more involved with your condo’s board of directors or volunteer to become a director yourself. Investigate options to install solar panels on your roofs, new energy efficient insulation, or maybe even a geothermal installation on your grounds. These government-subsidized technologies are becoming cheaper every year, improve the building’s value, and reduce energy costs for all tenants.
Living in a house is nowhere near as environmentally friendly than living in a building. Think of all of the extra city infrastructure needed to serve 1000 people living over 3 to 4 city blocks, instead of 1000 people living in a single high-rise. That said, living in a home also offers many opportunities to become entirely energy neutral.
As a homeowner, you have free reign over what appliances to buy, what type of insulation to install, and much deeper tax breaks for installing green energy add-ons like solar or residential geothermal—all of which can increase the resale value of your home, reduce energy bills and, in time, actually make you money from the excess power you feed back into the grid.
Recycle and limit waste
Wherever you live, recycle. Most cities today make it incredibly easy to do, so there really isn’t an excuse not to recycle unless you’re an aggressively lazy dickhead.
Aside from that, don’t litter when you’re outside. If you have extra stuff in your home, try selling it at a garage sale or donating it before throwing it out entirely. Also, most cities don’t make throwing out e-waste—your old computers, phones, and oversized scientific calculators—easy, so do make an extra effort to find your local e-waste drop off depots.
Use public transportation
Walk when you can. Bike when you can. If you live in the city, use public transportation for your commute. If you’re dressed too fly for the subway during your night on the town, either carpool or use taxis. And if you must have your own car (applicable mainly to suburban folk), try to upgrade to a hybrid or an all-electric. If you don’t have one now, then aim to get one by 2020 when a variety of quality, mass-market options will become available.
Support local food
Food grown by local farmers that isn’t flown in from different parts of the world always tastes better and is always the most environmentally friendly option. Buying local products also supports your local economy.
Have a vegan day once a week
It takes 13 pounds (5.9 kilos) of grain and 2,500 gallons (9,463 liters) of water to produce a single pound of meat. By eating vegan or vegetarian one day a week (or more), you’ll go a long way to reduce your environmental footprint.
Also—and this hurts me to say since I’m a hardcore meat eater—vegetarian diets are the future. The era of cheap meat will end by the mid-2030s. That’s why it’s a good idea to learn how to enjoy a few solid veg meals now, before meat becomes an endangered species at your local grocery store.
Don’t be an ignorant food snob
GMOs. So, I’m not going to repeat my entire series on food here, but what I will repeat is that GMO foods are not evil. (The companies who make them, well, that’s another story.)Simply put, GMOs and plants created from accelerated selective breeding are the future.
I know I’ll probably get some flack for this, but let’s get real here: all of the food consumed in an average person’s diet is unnatural in some way. We don’t eat wild versions of common grains, vegetables, and fruits for the simple reason that they would be barely edible to modern humans. We don’t eat freshly hunted, non-farmed meat because most of us can barely handle the sight of blood, let alone kill, skin, and cut an animal into edible pieces.
As climate change heats up our world, big agri-businesses will need to engineer a wider range of vitamin-rich, heat, drought and salt water resistant crops to feed the billions of people who will enter the world over the next three decades. Remember: by 2040, we’re supposed to have 9 BILLION people in the world. Madness! You’re welcome to protest the business practices of Big Agri (especially their suicide seeds), but if created and sold responsibly, their seeds will stave off wide-scale famine and feed future generations.
Don’t be a NIMBY
Not in my backyard! Solar panels, wind farms, tidal farms, biomass plants: these technologies will become some of the future’s main energy sources. The first two will even be built near or inside cities to maximize their energy delivery. But, if you’re the type to limit their responsible growth and development just because it’s an inconvenience to you in some way, then you’re a part of the problem. Don’t be that person.
Support green government initiatives, even if it costs you
This one will probably hurt the most. The private sector will have a huge role to play in addressing climate change, but the government will have an even bigger role. That role will likely come in the form of investments in green initiatives, initiatives that will cost many billions of dollars, dollars that will come out of your taxes.
If your government is acting and investing wisely to green your country, then support them by not raising a giant fuss when they raise your taxes (likely through a carbon tax) or increase the national debt to pay for those investments. And, while we’re on the subject of supporting unpopular and expensive green initiatives, investments to research thorium and fusion energy, as well as geoengineering, should also be supported as a last resort against out-of-control climate change. (That said, you’re still welcome to protest against nuclear power.)
Support an environmental advocacy organization you identify with
Love hugging trees? Give some cash to forest conservation societies. Love wild animals? Support an anti-poaching group. Love the oceans? Support those who protect the seas. The world is full of worthwhile organizations that actively protect our shared environment.
Pick a specific aspect of the environment that speaks to you, learn about the non-profit organizations that work to protect it, then donate to one or more of the ones you feel do the best job. You don’t have to bankrupt yourself, even $5 a month is enough to get started. The goal is to keep yourself engaged with the environment you share in a small way, so that over time supporting the environment will become a more natural part of your lifestyle.
Write letters to your government representatives
This will sound crazy. The more you educate yourself on climate change and the environment, the more you might actually want to get involved and make a difference!
But, if you’re not an inventor, a scientist, an engineer, a forward thinking billionaire, or an influential business person, what can you do to get the powers that be to listen? Well, how about writing a letter?
Yes, writing an old-fashioned letter to your local or provincial/state government representatives can actually have an impact if done correctly. But, instead of writing out how to do that below, I recommend watching this great six minute TED Talk by Omar Ahmad who explains the best techniques to follow. But don’t stop there.If you find success with that initial letter, consider starting a letter writing club around a specific cause to get your political representatives to really hear your voice.
Don’t lose hope
As explained in the previous part of this series, climate change will get worse before it gets better. Two decades from now, it might seem like everything you’re doing and everything your government’s doing really isn’t enough to stop the climate change juggernaut. However, that’s not the case. Remember, climate change operates on a longer timescale than humans are accustomed to. We’re used to tackling a big problem and resolving it in a few years. Working on a problem that could take decades to fix seems unnatural.
Cutting our emissions today by doing everything outlined in the last article will bring our climate back to normal after a two or three decade delay,enough time for the Earth to sweat out the flu we gave it. Unfortunately, during that delay, the fever will result in a hotter climate for us all. This is a situation that has consequences, as you know from reading the earlier parts of this series.
That’s why it’s vital you don’t lose hope. Keep up the fight. Live green as best you can. Support your community and urge your government to do the same. In time, things will get better, especially if we act sooner rather than later.
Travel the world and become a global citizen
This final tip might cause the super environmentalists among you to grumble, but fuck it: the environment we enjoy today probably won’t exist two or three decades from now, so travel more, travel the world!
… Okay, so put down your pitchforks for a sec. I’m not saying the world will end in two to three decades and I know full well how travelling (especially air travel) is horrible for the environment. That said, the pristine habitats of today—the lush Amazons, the wild Saharas, the tropical islands, and the Great Barrier Reefs of the world—will either become noticeably degraded or may become too dangerous to visit due to future climate change and the destabilizing effects it will have on governments the world over.
It’s my opinion that you owe it to yourself to experience the world as it is today. It’s only by gaining the global perspective only travel can give you that you’ll become more inclined to support and protect those far-flung parts of the world where climate change will have the worst effects. Simply put, the more you become a global citizen, the closer you become to the Earth.
After the reading the list above, how well did you do? If you only live four or fewer of these points, then it’s time you got your act together. Five to ten and you’re one your way to becoming an environmental ambassador. And between eleven to fourteen is where you reach that happy zen-like harmony with the world around you.
Remember, you don’t have to be a card-carrying environmentalist to be a good person.You just have to do your part. Each year, make an effort to change at least one aspect of your life to be more in sync with the environment, so that one day you give to the Earth as much as you take from it.
If you enjoyed reading this series on climate change, please share it with your network(even if you don’t agree with all of it). Good or bad, the more discussion this topic gets, the better. Also, if you missed any of the previous parts to this series, links to all of them can be found below:
WWIII Climate Wars series links
WWIII CLIMATE WARS: NARRATIVES
Southeast Asia, Drowning in your Past: WWIII Climate Wars P9
South America, Revolution: WWIII Climate Wars P11